by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
It is one of Georgia’s most beloved landmarks . . . yet over one and a half million tourists a year pass by this modest mound with a gazebo on top without knowing its true history. The state historical marker on the edge of the highway, near the mound, contains very little accurate information. Tourist brochures and a legion of “Cherokee History” websites have replicated its bogus history to the point that in the public’s mind, they have become essentially religious beliefs. Any mention of the fascinating real history of the Nacoochee Valley provokes anger and accusations of one being a troublemaker.
Join us on a sentimental journey into the past 12,000 years that mankind has called this beautiful valley home. You will meet Native American kings, French Huguenot refugees, forgotten English explorers, Sephardic Jewish gold miners, survivors of the Roanoke Colony, Anglo-American gold miners, rugged pioneer settlers, famous archaeologists and the naive 17 year old bride of a Methodist minister. The experiences that this teenage bride had, while living in the Nacoochee Valley, would become a best-selling novel . . . propelling the author into becoming the first nationally recognized female novelist from the South. That novel would become the ever-popular movie, “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain.”
During the five years that I did research for this film, I was shocked to discover absolute proof of a direct cultural connection between Mexico and the Southern Appalachians. Indeed . . . the name of the Native town where this mound developed, was Itsate . . . which means Itza (Maya) People!